Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year Resolutions?

Do you make New Year Resolutions?

I mean beyond the diet which dies a death after the first bacon and egg breakfast of the year. The save money that evaporates with the new set of tyres for the car.

I mean definite unbreakable resolutions.

To achieve something even the smallest goal.

For me 2013 my goal is to return to work before the end of January.  Return to work?

Where will I find the time, I am so busy these days from early in the morning until well after dark.

As a little background, last September, I had a small stroke. It was actually a transient ischaemic attack. A small pin head sized blood clot in the brain. In a few hours I went from a doctor telling my wife to "Prepare to say goodbye" to sitting in bed and eating pureed sausage and eggs for breakfast. 

Ok I couldn't actually eat solid food for a week but believe me, puree sausage and eggs makes you get well pretty quickly if only to eat real hospital food. :)

So for three months now I have  been off work.  No pay, no chatting around the workplace, well only occassionally on my infrequent visits to deliver a doctors medical note, or in passing on my way to Starbucks for a venti coffee.

It took me just over three weeks to be able to get out of bed, then three weeks to walk to the end of my street, now Starbucks is the other side of town and I walk there, and sometimes back if the local bus is not running or available.

That was a major achievement back at the end of November, to get that lovely cup of coffee.

My next step is just to convince the doctor that I am pretty much ok.  There are still problems, my balance is not quite there as I tire and I  have some trembling in my hand.

To help the trembling though, I type and also took up loom knitting. a fascinating hobby, I can knit a hat in three or four hours, for an adult; less for a baby. It has even reach the stage where I have several commissions for hats from family members. Including several ski hats to be delivered by next weekend.

So causing the hectic business in my life over New Year. But a great achievement for me will be to return to my real job by the end of January 2013.

That is my New Years Resolution.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Christmas Present swap went Well,

My Father-in Law, Dave. A great man for BBQ.

As you may remember I mentioned that my wife's family had decided upon a gift swap and steal party for Christmas.

This threw me into a bit of confusion as I like to plan gifts for people.

Well as it turned out it was ok. One of the gifts I put into the swap was this apron.

In fact I designed the apron myself (it is available both at my cafe press or zazzle store) if you would like one.

My wifes family are great barbecuers, my father in law ( in photograph) is especially good. I had hoped he would pick up the apron, and as you can see he did.

He is much more jolly a man than this picture suggests, I caught him coming in from the barbecue where he was preparing a 24 pound rib roast, it was deliciously tender for Christmas Day lunch.

All in all it turned out to be a wonderful Christmas day.

My pick from the gifts?

$25 worth of scratch cards. I am currently waiting for my wife to find the time to help me scratch off the wax from the cards. Should we win, I wonder if I will be rich?

Nah! Not really, I guess I am very rich already to be surrounded by some great people and you, the readers of this blog.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

It is that time of year again.

I will be busy away from my computer for a few days so wanted to take this opportunity to thank all my readers for visiting my blog over this year. I hope you found it useful and that you will keep coming back next year.

In the meantime. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all the best to you and all that you wish for yourself.

Thank you and may Your God go with you.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Movie Description Comes to Fresno CA.

I am lucky to live quite near to Fresno CA. I live about an hours drive away and so weekends often see me visiting the city and its movie theaters, almost all of which are own by the Regal Entertainment Group.

Several weeks ago my wife noticed some posters going up around the cinemas declaring that they were about to provide some new services for disabled patrons, in particular deaf and blind patrons.

For the deaf they have begun to provide special glasses which allow the wearer to have closed caption subtitles onto the glasses, so the deaf viewer can follow the dialogue in any movie equiped with the neccessary closed captions. Also there is an enhanced audio facility on the same device as the Audio description device, this gives louder clearer audio but at least one customer service person didn't know the difference between enhanced audio and audio description as I mention later.

For blind patrons there is a headset which provides a descriptive narration of what is on the screen.

All these services are free to patrons,

In order to use the service you buy your ticket as normal at the box office then go to the Customer Service desk in the lobby of the Cinema. The service is also available at our local IMAX cinema too, but you must collect the headset from Edwards River Park at the time you purchase the ticket, then walk across the plaza to the IMAX Theater.

A couple of problems with the service whicht I have encountered are that one customer service person set the small receiver box to the wrong setting and so I missed several minutes of one movie going back to the customer service area to have them re-set the box from closed caption to audio description.

At the moment there is no way for you to test the setting until the actual movie starts, so any problem and you miss the begining of the movie.

Also the headset does not fit over the top of your head but around the back of your neck and there are loops which hold the earpieces to your ears. The solid headband catches the back of your seat if you lean back and the ear loops pull on your ears. This can give you both a stiff neck and sore ears after a couple of hours wear.

The audio description on the movies which I have seen is very good, especially when it comes to subtitling. In the past my wife used to have to read subtitles to me or tell me what was happening in dark portions of the movie.  This constant interruption to her viewing often distracted her and caused some other patrons to complain from their seats.

This audio description service now makes it more likely that I can go see movies alone, it also enhances my wife's enjoyment of the whole movie going experience.

These services are not yet available at all Regal Cinemas but they are being rolled out over time and I look forward to the time when the service does become standard.

I have a link to Regal Cinemas where you can find your nearest Regal Cinema equipped with this service.

I hope that you will be able to try it for yourselves. It is definitely a positive move to give us added independence.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mixed News at the Retinologist Appointment

Yesterday as I have mentioned in several posts was an important decision day at my retinologists office.

I had a full series of tests such as the regular OCT and then a fluorosene dye test of the blood flow at the back of my left eye in order to decide if the injections of avastin and lucentis should continue.

The OCT showed no major swelling of the retina, which is pretty much what I expected as it was only four weeks since my last Lucentis injection.

The fluorosene enhanced photographs of the blood vessels at the back of the eye also showed no new blockages, that is good news as more retinal vein oclussions was a fear of my retinologist and I.

So why is the blood flow only making this mixed news not great news?

Well given that the left eye is now completely blind, there is no treatable reason for this blindness. My retinologist  has come to the conclusion that the damage causing the blindness is further back in either the optic nerve or the brain. Neither of which is treatable at the present time.

In order however to prevent blood vessels growing within the left eye my retinologist is looking to maintain the intravitreal injection procedures for the foreseeable future.

That is also to my mind bad news. I was hoping that they may stop beingg a regular part of my life, but seemingly that is not to be.

So with this mixed news I look forward to a new year. I hope you are too. The next year will bring some challenges and obstacles, but for you all I hope you have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

More Tests This Week

This week I have an important appointment with my retinologist.

She has ordered a test to check the blood flow in my left eye. The test involves the injection of a fluoresent dye into my arm. Then a series of photographs are taken in rapid succession.

These photos tell the retinologist how the blood is flowing around the retina.

For several months now the monthly injections of Avastin and Lucentis have not been working as well as they had.

Though I had reported this my retinologist kept wanting one more chance for things to change.  Now I guess she is looking into the matter seriously. She always said that there was no reason why I should see no improvement.

I think this series of photos will show a mass of blood vessels. She had lasered some away about six months ago, that improved the swelling situation, the retina did not swell as quickly after the treatment began to wear off but vision never really recovered either.

It may be that this week will see the end of intravitral injections after five and a half years.

Those five and a half years were at first filled with some hope. Often false hope created by me. Not my retinologist, she was always cautious as to long term effects. Anyway now maybe no sharp sticks in the eye every month.

More false hope? We'll see. We'll see.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cold Mornings

The past few mornings have been on the cold side.

Temperatures are just about freezing. So cars are icy and there is that bite in the air that catches your throat as you breathe in.  I love that feeling of freshness that comes with mornings like these. I miss the several weeks of cold mornings from back home in England. Moving to California's central valley, I gave that up, now I get several days like this at most in the year and I relish the moment.

It is  on mornings like these that I also look forward to thick hot soups for lunch or dinner. My favorite is a thick Ham and Pea soup. My wife and mother in law both make a delicious thick pea soup. My wife however is now challenging me to make my own.

It is actually quite a challenge. Before I went blind I did cook. Not brilliantly, but what I turned out was edible and kept me going as a single man.  Now though I never cook so my wife sees this as an opportunity to get me started again.

Make my own pea soup within two weeks.

It's just peas, potatoes, carrots and onions with stock. So I guess we will have a go. After all maybe I might do a better job than either my wife or her mother. Now that would be awkward.

First rule of marriage I learned is to never be better than your wife's parents at anything. :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Getting Excited for Christmas

Do you remember the days when you woke one morning and realised it was nearly Christmas with excitement?

I remember as a child looking forward and Christmas seemed so far away. Then bang Christmas Eve hit us.

Today, I woke, stretched, yawned and heard the birds singing in the early grey light. Wow! It's nearly Christmas I thought. That was the start of the excitement.

I often joke that people need to let me have a Christmas list by Easter or else they may not get what they want.

I am a planner. I love to plan what I will get for people, plan to budget  for the gift, then plan to get the gift. You get the idea.

Planning is all part of the fun for me. But sadly no-one else seems to appreciate that. All the time they wait and wait. Now at the end of the first week of December, I have rolled out my plans.

Now they get something. But as this year all my family have decided a gift swap/steal Christmas.

They pick a parcel, open it. Then if someone else likes that gift they can steal or swap it.

Arrrgh! For a planner like me a nightmare. How do I plan for a gift that maybe twenty people may like. IMPOSSIBLE!

So I decided last night to set myself free. I bought a couple of gifts that I would like. Now if I see disappointment in the eyes of the recipient of my gifts, then I can steal it back. I can't lose.

Or am I forgetting something?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Guide Dog II

Yesterday I had a surprise telephone call. A nice surprise that is.

It was from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

The call was my telephone interview. If you are looking to get a guide dog it will be your second step after the initial application too.

The interview is to help the Guide dog people assess your circumstances. I was asked about how the decision to get a guide dog was arrived at. Guide dogs are not a trifle, you have to think about the life change that will take place much as you should when you take on any dog as a pet, but the guide dog will be a working dog not a pet for many years.

Then I was asked about the types of routes I normally walk. Obstacles I encounter, roads and traffic volumes along various rroutes.

Finally I was asked about my general health history. At the end of the call the interviewer asked if they could send me a consent form for Guide Dogs to contact my medical support teams and also the rehgabilitation department to check on my training on mobility aids, a white cane.

If the doctors supply their information in good time, Guide Dogs estimate a home visit could be made by February next year. 

That is about on a par with what I was led to expect in my previous conversations with them.

While all this is very exciting it is hard not to get my hopes up too much, these are important steps and at any stage the application can be refused or terminated.

For links to Guide Dogs for the Blind organizations in the USA and United Kingdom click here

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Long Nights and Longer Days

At the end of September this year I had a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) that had me in hospital for three weeks and still has me off work.

I have some balance issues remaining and a tremor in my left hand which is easing over time.

The days of doctor visits is now receeding into history as my recovery continues.

This is leaving me with long days and nights of very little to do.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my account. It appears someone bought a T-Shirt from one of my old stores. It was actually a store that I set up on my very first day there two and a half years ago.

Well the store had stood for a while, some traffic but no sales until September 26, then a SALE!

Ironically that was the very day I had my stroke. While I sat in hospital for three weeks, my customer was enjoying their new shirt and finally a few days ago the sale was confirmed as good. So I got paid a commission. YEAH! I like that someone actually bought one of my shirts.

Since yesterday I have been cleaning up my stores on Zazzle.  Adding some new stuff too.

If you are at a loose end for something to do. Maybe consider opening a store online selling your own t-shirt designs or other products.

Don't tell yourself that you are blind so you can't do it. I can do it, you can too.

While the commission may be a little slow, this cheque will have taken two years to come. It does give you a sense of satisfaction to say that I am a clothing designer who has sold his designs successfully. :)

Now off to Starbucks for a Venti brewed coffee. That's my commission spent.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Black Forever. I lose the Eye


Yesterday I went to see my retinologist for my monthly check-up.

For several months now we have being trying to save the left eye. The tests every month were showing no swelling due to the injections of Avastin and Lucentis. The bad thing though my vision was not varying at all.

I can see bright light as a pale glow in my left eye otherwise there is nothing there. No light, no colours, no letters on the eye chart, actually no wall for the wall chart to hang on.

My retinologist therefore came to the decision that we have more than likely lost the fight for my left eye.

Next month I will go back and have a full battery of test, a flourescent dye will be injected into my arm to allow photographs of the blood supply to my left retina. I also may receive one more injection of Avastin.

Believe it or not it is a relief. I had been up and down over the lack of improvement in that eye following several injections. Now I know not to worry.

My retinologist is at a loss as to the cause of the blindness. Swelling is under control, there are lots of shunt vessels however across the retina so that may be the problem, these carry blood to areas now dead following the original clot five years ago.

Anyway, it is just another problem not to worry about.

For my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guide Dog?

Thinking ahead times have been a little tough lately.

The death of Polly, my old German Shepherd, having a heart attack in June then a stroke in September. I am now almost recovered, still have a tremor in my left hand and a little weak overall.

So looking forward, I think we could do with a goal.  My MA is on hold for a little.

But how about looking into getting a Guide Dog.

A Guide Dog would work, I miss the companionship of a dog, I could be more generally independent and I think it woluld work out for me.

So today I contacted the California Guide Dog center in Sann Rafael. They run a series of programs at theor campus to let you see if Guide Dogs are good for you and to see if you would be a good fit for a guide dog.

Their next program is at the end of February 2013 then another in April.

So we can think about that for a while.

To find help on owning a guide dog here is a link to  Guide Dogs for the Blind USA

Link to   Guide dogs for the Blind UK


A Great Book: Thunderdog by Michael Hingson

I bought this book about twenty-four hours ago, since then I have only read and slept.

I do not often post favorite books on this blog, I have another blog for that.

This book is different though. Michael Hingson and his guide dog Rocelle became famous after their escape from World Trade Center I on 9/11. Hingson and Rocelle were working on the 78th floor of the WTC building when American Airlines flight 11 hit the North Tower on that bright September morning in 2001.

Hingson retells their story inthis book, but he also does something more. He tells a story of a life with blindness and the various twists and turns that led him to be in the North Tower that day

. This book is moving, at several points I found a tear welling up in my eye, also a nod of understanding when Hingson tells of various obstacles he had overcome from society

. If you are blind or partially sighted you will recognize many of the situations, Hingson describes. If you love dog stories, you will love the devotion and loyalty shown by both man and dog in their own team, if you wonder how to treat the blind, this book will guide you. I highly recommend this book to be shared with anyone. Sighted or blind all will learn something of value from this book.


Friday, November 9, 2012

My First US Presidential Election Experience

 It was about 7pm in the evening when I went to the polling station. The polling station was like many such places in England housed in the annex to a church.

Rows of blocked off tables filled the center of the room, the voting booths. Then down the left sat a row of people behind numbered desks. A man approached my wife and I asked our address and directed us to a table.

The woman at the table greeted us happily, asking me about the next book club meeting at the library, I organize the book club and she has often expressed interest in joining wjen she has prepared my taxes in the Spring. Guess you know that you live in a small town when you know most people at the polling station.

My wife voted first, I stood with a friend from the local community college as we caught up on news and our latest bits of gossip.

Then I moved to a voting booth. My wife elected to fill in the ballot for me. We had actually prepared my votes on a ballot proposal form earlier. It was easy then to merely add the votes to the various parts of the ballot paper.

Happily I placed my ballot into a cover, walked to the man whom had directed us earlier then my ballot was taken from me, placed on a machine and sucked inside.

My first presidential election as a US Citizen was over.

Sad at the knowledge that next time will not be a first but happy to have followed a tradition of having a say in my countries government. I love it!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

White Cane Techniques

While browsing Youtube the other day I found this video on the proper use of a white cane.

While it is probably not the best medium to share training with my fellow blind persons, it will offer some insight to any sighted persons as to what we are really doing with those canes.

I did find one particular section quite funny. The use of a white cane in a cafeteria or restaurant. The video shows the blind person alone in the restaurant and successfully navigating their way around, tray and cane in hand. Nice of the other customers to vacate the premises and put the chairs back under the tables.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Election Fever: My First Vote

This next week is very exciting for me. I was an avid voter back in England, I didn't miss a local or General Election. Now for the first time I get to vote in a US National Election.

OK so many of you may be sighing at the thought of yet more politics. I admit I am dreading Wednesday of next week when no doubt once the political analysts have examined any result the plot for the Election campaign for 2016 will be laid out.

Anyway. Tuesday November 6th 2012 is a big day for me. I became a US Citizen in December 2010 so this is my first time voting for a major political event.

I got a review ballot through the mail a few weeks ago, a thirty page monster with all the local candidates, ballot measures and bond issues. Far more complex than a straightforward ballot in England where one puts an X next to your chosen candidates name, while making sure not to mark outside the right box, just in case you spoil the vote.

As things go, I have pretty much decided on my tax and bond measures, here in California we are also voting on the Death Penalty, whether to keep it on the statuts as we cannot use it as a punishment anyway because it is being boycotted by doctors who must be present. Then there is a chance to continue the "Three Strikes" law to make a third conviction for a major crime a mandatory life sentence.

Close to my heart is Measure B a llibrary funding measure that is up for renewal, for twenty years a portion of county sales tax has been given to libraries for books and programs. My wages are funded from Measure B so no measure B no job for me come January.

Beyond that of course there is the choice of President. That one decision has not been made just yet. Though I am sure California will send all its electoral college votes for the Democratic candidate.

I am really looking forward to seeing how the whole process works from a blindman's point of view. How the polling station workwers deal with me and my problems. I will let you know.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

At Home Again

Ahhh! It is good to be home. Alone for once. No more people coming in and out at all times of the night and day.

Having just spent three weeks in hospital it is just nice to be quiet.

At the end of September I had a TIA, the acronym for a Transient Ischaemic Attack. In laymans terms a momentary loss of blood supply to a portion of my brain caused by a blood clot. This is basically a minor stroke.

Luckily the symptoms pass quickly. I did lose about twenty pounds in weight during my hospitalization. Not a bad thing for me, who needed to lose some pounds.

For a couple of weeks I was confined to a wheelchair, wow what a payback for my earlier post about people in wheelchairs.

My abiding memory of my stay in physical therapy rehabilitation was a cry from a nurse as I wheeled myself along a corridorm alone. "That's a blind man. And he's in a wheelchair!" Some hands soon grabbed the chair and I was gently wheeled back to my room for a rest.

The crew of staff at Fresno Community were pretty good though. Making me work hard for my supper. You sometimes need that, and I hope I taught them one or two things about being blind too.

Anyway thanks to the staff on the 9th and 6th floor. You are priceless.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

So Polly's Gone.

Hariska Intrigue von Liaker "Polly"

Monday 24th September dawned bright.

Polly my old German Shepherd scrambled to her feet as she had for eighteen years and made her way outside. She went to the bathroom, chased the cat that, I think, enjoyed the morning ritual as much as Polly did.

We then ate breakfast. Not the usual dog food for Polly. Spam and eggs for us both. A real treat which she enjoyed occassionally. Then a short walk to the field at the end of the street.

She fell twice and we both struggled to get her to her feet. Back home she didn't get to come into the house. Straight to the back of the car. Straight in no fuss. She put her head on my leg and there she lay head on my knee for the hour drive to the veterinary surgeon.

Our appointment was at 11:30am we arrived on time. She went quietly to the back room. In seconds she was on the table. Her left paw shaved and the injection done.

Her head on her paws, I felt the cold spread on her neck. She was gone.

Eighteen years of perfect friendship. Now only a memory.

The cat still sits by the tree in the morning. Still and quiet, no longer does that great beast chase him and he waits and waits.

Now there is silence as I leave the house in the morning. Now I do not hear the click of claws on the floor or feel that long nose push my arm as I sit here writing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


There are days when you wake up and things just happen.

Take last Monday for instance. I had my usual retinologist appointment to go to. The usual three hour bus ride there loomed large in my day, the even longer afternoom three hour bus ride home was even looming larger.

The bus came as usual, we made the usual stop outside the local state prison to pick up about twelve former inmates released that day, returning home to all parts of California and beyond. Their questions even go the same way as all other ex-inmates returning home. :What time do we get to the Greyhound?" "Where do we stopp?" "Where do I get cigarettes?"

The bus winds its way across the seemingly endless roads past vineyards and cornfields. Then, What? We didn't make our usual left back there. Instead we roll up to a stop light.

"Bugger!" I mutter. A diversion how much longer will this add to the journey? We turn right and move to the next light. Then left, we don't make a full turn and pull into the edge of a vineyard. A Highway patrol car sits there. Then a County Sheriff car and another, and another Highway Patrol car.

Two County Sheriff Deputies walk to the bus door. The Driver opens it and they board, call a name and the man across the aisle from me answers. One of the former prisoners. He gathers his things and exits the bus. Bundles into one of the Sheriff's cars and is gone. Leaving a passion of excitement behind.

So what had been just another day, the same as any other is no longer just that. Now a day that was full of things. A day that will mark itself as different. A day unlike any other.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Somedays Are Tough

No-one ever said going blind was easy. The actual process could possibly be described as easy. Poof one minute you can see, the next the world is black or a blurred fog. Tough, live with it as my wife said to me the other day.

The hard part is the mental but. I still want to see. I'd give almost anything to see again. Almost anything? You may ask.

Yes almost. Money would go, house, wife even. But not my dog. The line would even hold true if you would say that I were to die. If it were my life or my dogs life. I would surrender myself to my fate to save her.

Why? My dog has been with me for eighteen years now. A German Shepherd. She is of good Czech breeding lines, kennel name Hariska Intrigue, but for all those 18 years I have called her Polly.

A few months ago I noticed a wobble of her back legs as she walked, a slight scuff of the ground by her claws. That moment filled me with cold dread. She was showing the first signs of aging, the first mark that time was catching up with us.

Today she cannot really get up from her bed. She is bent like a birthday card trying to stand. She can just go to the bathroom, only just, without falling. Some days are tough but I know very soon I have to make a really hard decision.

I cannot go in her stead. I want to, I really want to.

Yesterday I fed her. When she had finished she picked up her steel food bowl and flung it across the room. She used to do that as a puppy. As if to say, "I am finished." Perhaps in her way that is what she was telling me yesterday. "I am finished. Time to go."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Scientists Goal - End Blindness by 2020

The Gavin Herbert Center is set to open at UC Irvine in Orange County, California in the summer of 2013.

The aim of the center is to create a place where academics, patients and industries aimed at treating blindness can come together in a drive to end blindness by the year 2020.

Read a great article click here to read article

Wheelchair! GET OUT ' THE WAY!

Have you ever noticed a distinct hierarchy of disability?

I mean.

I was at the doctors office the other day. I have my usual problem of a receptionist who insists that by shouting and thrusting a pen into my right hand (I am left handed) that miraculously I will be able to see to sign in on their sign in sheet.

Sitting there I hear the buzz of an electric wheelchair in the waiting room and they are greeted with "How are you?" "I'm sorry to hear that. Let me help you with this." The receptionist hands down a pen and the sign in sheet and the happy person in the wheelchair laps up the attention.

Now this in a single case may be just the people know each other ssocially or are old friends. But it appears everywhere.

People in wheelchairs race around stores, up and down the sidewalk or worse still the street. Disregard the rules of the road. "Get out of my way! I am in a wheelchair" Their war cry.

Blind people? Well you hardly see those about. When you do we tap our way around invisible to all and sundry who push us and seem to give us an eye test. "Just how close can I get before he flinches?"

Then the deaf? What can we say about the deaf? Anything we want really. They are DEAF!

Yes there is a real hierarchy of disability.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Free Parks Pass

This week I went to one of our local National Parks. Being in California we have lots to choose from, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Death Valley and the queen of them all, in my opinion, Yosemite. Then we have small parks too,.

I have always been happy to buy a yearly pass for the parks. They are well worth it at less than $100 so five or moere visits to any parks make the annual pass profitable.

Well this time, my wife pointed out to the gate keeper that we have a disabled parking badge. The gate keeper asked if it was temporary or permanent. On hearing it was permanent they directed us to the Tourist Center.

There one of the park rangers was very helpful. He filled in a form for me and gave me a FREE pass to all National Parks in the US. This also covers entrance to national monuments and Federal Reserves.

So if you like to visit places. Consider asking Federal Officers if you are elligible for a FREE Parks Pass.

It is not often that our disabililties are recognized and we can receive some benefit from the Federal Government.

The General Sherman Tree
Sequoia National Park California USA

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Long Time with no Posts

It has been a few weeks since I last posted.

I would like to say that I have been on vacation to some tropical island, sipping cold drinks while laying on a beach. That though would be untrue.

A few weeks ago I had a heart attack. Of all things I have expected a heart attack was probably at the top of all my doctors threats for about twenty years.

It came on a Saturday morning, a feeling of being tired and so I went back to bed. A couple of hours later my left shoulder ached terribly and I was feeling nauseous. No matter what I did the feeling didn't go away, so my wife put me in the car and whisked me to the local Emergency Room.

At the ER they did a blood test and an electro-cardio gram. That test looked OK but the blood test came back with hormone levels that showed a heart attack in progress. I was then sent by ambulance 70 miles to the nearest major hospital. There after several hours waiting in their ER on a bed in the corridor I was taken to an operating room where they put a line into my arm and pushed a wire through to the heart and opened the blood vessel.

The heart attack had been caused by a blood clot. Even though I was on blood thinners before the heart attack my clotting level had fallen below theraputic levels. The clot formed and lodged in a small coronary artery, causing the heart attack. The heart attack was harfly life threatening but made me a little unwell.

It just goes to show one should not ignore such simple signs of illness. I may have ignored those symptoms very easily. To what end?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dragon Naturally Speaking Update

A few weeks ago I noticed that my microphone was not working correctly with my Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. The problem was every time I move my head the word 'him would appear in the text. Because th became a regular occurrence I decided that there was probably something going wrong with the headset, possibly a loose wire or similar fault.This I then decided to buy a new headset from

I opted for a USB headset  because many reviewers said that dragons interpretation of the spoken word improved dramatically with a USPS headset.
Plugging in the headset I found that I needed to reconfigure Dragon for a new user setting up a new profile and going through the original speech and level quality tests had used several months ago . I also took the opportunity to change the region settings on the menu in order to cover for my English accident rather than taking and American English setting which had been set initially with my first user profile.

 I have found in the last 10 days or so using the new settings and also the new headsets a dramatic decrease in the number of problems which I encounter . I nowfind that I am able to speak faster than I was before and Dragon is able to correctly interprets my speech patterns . I am not sure if I lost all the information from my previous user profile, but many of the problems I had encountered previously are now a thing of the past.

A valuable tip then is to check that your settings are set for the correct region for your accent. Do not accept the default American English setting if you don't have a full blown American accent. Use your home region, your original accent to give you the best results.

You can find a wide range of Dragon Naturally Speaking Software for English, French and Spanish at The Low Vision Store

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Masters Degree Update

This has been a tense week.

Last Saturday, June 2, I posted my final paper for my class, Seminar in US History I. The class was the fourth in my Masters degree classes and covered my favorite period of US History, basically everything up until the end of the Civil War.

My final paper was a literature review. A very different paper to the Research papers I have been doing even up till March this year. It seems National University moved more towards the literature review in April and so this was my first Literature Review style paper.

My topic was the "Rights of Englishmen" in causing the Revolution. The debate at the time of the Revolution was that the Colonists had a right to proper treatment under English Common Law but for the English themselves the Colonies were beyond the jurisdiction of English Common  Law as it was described at the time.  This enflamed fears of colonists that the British would treat the Colonies as mere provinces and not guarantee what they saw as traditional rights.

I thoroughly enjoyed researching the paper. Even though in the middle of the four week class I reached the depths of my blindness. The laser surgery occured in the second week of class, the massive swelling of the retina in the third.

My original draft was late and though it was accepted without penalty, it only rated a B. Reading was tough, and more than a few times I wanted to cry at the end of a reading session where nothing seemed to work out.

In the end however the final paper and all my posts were in. At the end of week 3 I had a high "B" grade going for me. It looked as if my run of forty-three "A" grades was about to come to an endd.

Luckily I knuckled down and made one final push. Hitting a 97% on the final draft of the paper and 98% on my final posts was enough to push me over the 90% overall grade for the class.

My record of straight "A" grades remains good for yet another class.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Third Retinologist Visit in Three Weeks.

Yesterday saw my third visit to the retinologist in three weeks.

This time I went for a follow up on last weeks laser treatment and OCT scan.

The OCT showed swelling behind the left retina like Mount Everest.  No wonder for over a week I had not been able to see to complete even the simplest of tasks.

The laser treatment was healing nicely and my retinologist decided to go ahead with an injection of Lucentis to deal with the swelling.

As usual the injection was over quickly.

Anyone out there facing their first injection into the eye, DO'NT worry about it at all. It is not as bad as it seems. Actually it is worse for anyone observing so don't take anyone squimish into the room with you.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Laser Treatment

On Monday 14 May I went to see my retinologist.
She had decided a few weeks ago to do some laser surgery on my eye. This was to ring fence the old damaged area of my retina. She said this would help reduce long term swelling as the region is now dead and was sending chemical signals telling my body to send help as the area was damaged. This natural defence system was then countering the injections of either avastin or lucwentis, making them less effective over the long term.

The left eye has no central vision. A little periferral acuity to detect light.

The laser treatment itself took about five minutes. First they applied some numbing drops.

Then a large contact lens was put on my eye. I placed my head in a headrest and was told to look into a light.

This light was a guide for the laser, the doctor sat opposite me as in a regular examination. Then there were some bright flashes, this was the laser working.

I did feel the occasional sting as a nerve was hit  the laser but it was not too bad.

After the surgery my eye was sensitive for the afternoon. A little like if someone pokes you in the eye. The eye also watered quite profusely for about an hour after the surgery.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Save your face. Buy a Hat.

Walking down the street is like an obstacle course at the best of times.

You have people leave a basketball hoop out on the sidewalk, fire hydrants, even the occassional open manhole cover.

Add to that the items above cane level. The low hanging tree branch, the pick-up truck side mirror just at the height to smack you in the eye.

For these items other than learning to accept a smack in the face there are few answers.

I am tired of the smack in the face though. So for that reason I bought myself a hat.

The Western style hat seems perfect for my needs.

It is comfortable, close fitting so it stays on in a breeze. Here in the Central Valley of California it is also almost invisible, they are everywhere in the rural areas. By the way they are also a lady pleaser. Don't tell my wife that part though.

Anyway, the hat as a good strong brim. This keeps the sun out of my eye helping to ease the strain on my eyes. The tall crown and wide brim also push away any low branches of trees and rose bushes.

Finding my way to a bus or train seat was always fraught with the danger of a banged head from the coat racks or overhead lockers. Now the hat takes the hit not my scalp. It is so nice not to ride the bus with no blood trickling down my face from that encounter with the coat rack.

In all my hat cost me a little over $60 from Boot Barn. You can pay more if you like, but this hat suited me, the price was a bonus.

Save yourself a bang on the head. Get a good sturdy hat.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Second Opinion

Monday May 7, 2012 saw me at the eye doctor for a second opinion regarding laser surgery on my left eye.

The doctor did not really give me very much information as to what has actually happened in my left eye. He just confirmed my retinologists opinion that laser surgery to cut off and ring fence the damaged area would be the only real solution.

It will not bring back any vision, of course. The laser treatment should hopefully reduce swelling from the central retinal vein occlusion, thereby making fewer injections of Avastin or Lucentis neccessary.

At the moment I feel some shock as to the thought of partially destroying the left retina. Even though the region to be lasered is already dead, it seems to mark a major defeat.

This CRVO took five years to destroy my left eye. I guess all the treatments we threw at it did buy some time.

Anyway, I now have an appointment with my retinologist for noon on Monday 14 May for the laser surgery.

This will be a hard week.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blind and Now Diabetic: Insulin Dosing Tip

As things go I guess this year is shaping up to be tough.

Losing the sight in my left eye then after blood test now finding myself to be Type II Diabetic and in need of insulin injections.

Giving myself insulin injections has not been too bad. My Endochrinologist had me take a dose in the morning then another dose at night after a month she decided to give me different doses morning and night.

I have had some trouble getting the medical insurance to pay for a pen type insulin injection system. This would be ideal, you turn the top and count the clicks to find the dose. so ten clicks of the pen top is ten units etc.

But no the insurance insist for the moment I use the old style needles.

Being blind here is not good. I have to ask my wife to measure the doses and she was able to make several days injections in advance. Very easy with a single dose morning and night.

So now with two different doses?

My wife here showed her genius.

She made up several days doses as normal, but to differentiate the morning and evening doses she put each set of prepared injections in boxes.

The morning box is lined with aluminum foil. (A = AM Dose).

The evening dose box is lined with paper (P- PM Dose).

It is simple to remember and tactile for me to easiky tell dose apart.

My wife can be brilliant in a crisis!

Friday, April 27, 2012

What do you miss being blind?

Being blind for me brings few real tragedies.

Now and then I wish that I could see my wife. I think that I can just remember her face, how she looked a couple of years ago. Since then though she has lost a lot of weight on a diet. I know that she has as I put my arms around her when we hug, but I don't know what that looks like.

I miss watching television in the evening. Now most of my tv viewing is restricted to "Jeopardy" the game show. I have always loved general knowledge quizzes, and this is possibly the only show I can follow.  I used to like detective shows like CSI but now less so, I need a running commentary as to what is happening and what the crime is so it gets irritating for others to constantly tell me what jusat happened.

Another thing I miss is the ability to read or look at a book. It is ok to use my intel reader or listen to a book on my kindle or CD, but they still mean that I have to follow the book in a linear fashion, beginning to end. No more skimming to a favorite passage. I miss that.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Don't Hide Yourself Away

Blindness can cause you to want to withdraw from the world.

Meeting the public is a great way to escape the anxiety of going blind. It relieves isolation and anxiety. Here a member of the public meets a guide dog puppy in training.
Meeting the Public Before a Speaking Engagement

Actually for me it has had the opposite effect. I have pushed out. I used to not want to be noticed. I was shy, would go out and hardly speak to people. Eat in a restaurant rarely and if I did would go to a table in the darkest corner at the back of the room.

Going blind has not made me into one of those loud brash people, the ones whom you cringe at in public.

I have though found a taste for public speaking.

Last Spring I did a talk at my Community College about going through school after going blind. It was a bit of a last minute thing. I met a head of the Disabled Student Resource Department and she was short of a speaker. My gut reaction was panic when she asked, but another part said "Why the Hec not?"

So I did the talk. It was fun. Especially as many of the students knew me anyway and it turned out more of a mass tutoring session. Lots of Fun.

Then the library needed a talk for the Summer Reading Program. The theme last summer was Cats. I chose to tell the story of Dick Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London. He had a famous cat.
Last week at the library too, I produced a program for the anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic. It was a short talk and a movie, "A Night to Remember" about the actual events, not the fictional stories that have been added.

Now I am also planning more programs too. There is a Summer Reading Theme of Drams. For that I plan a talk about Olympic Dreams. This Being an Olympic Games Year. My athlete of choice will be, Jesse Owens. He after all created a dream of winning and worked to achieve that. In the meantime he shattered the dream of Nazi Aryan supremacy.

So don't believe blindness means that you need to hide away. You can conquer your fears and jump hurdles just the same as anyone else. It is not easy pushing your own limits but it is a lot of fun looking back and hearing the applause of the people who tell you they enjoyed what you said amd did for them.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My April 2, Retinologist Appointment

My last retinologist appointment did not go well.

There was a great deal of swelling behind the retina of my left eye. There was only a little vision left, just enough to detect some light.

My retinologist did give me a Lucentis injection. That was to try and reduce the swelling so that she might be able to treat the dead area of the retina with laser therapy.

The idea is to block off the blood supply into the dead region of the retina. This in itself might reduce swelling and also reduce the need for future injections. The procedure is not entirely painless and from past experience there was a marked deteroration of my vision in my right eye after laser treatment in that in December 2001 and January 2002. Then I had over 20,000 laser shots over an about sic week period. Damage from blood clots was quite extensive in my right eye.

Needless to say it was not a happy retinologist visit. Laser surgery was the only form of treatment offered for now.

I am considering a second opinion as this treatment is a major step to take.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Next Retinologist Visit Tomorrow

Tomorrow sees another visit to my retinologist.

It is now five weeks since my last visit and the discovery of the dead area of retina in my left eye.

The last injection of Lucentis at that visit five weeks ago did nothing for my vision in the left eye. It has remained almost completely black apart from periods of bright flashes of what appear to be lights, but from experience with my right eye I think these are mere halucinations as nerves fire off in the brain or optic nerve.

Tomorrow I am due for another injection of Lucentis or Avastin, I am considering saying that these should end now. 

The retinologist may want to treat the eye with laser. It won't bring back vision. Just stop some swelling later.

Things to think about today, are all about surrendering this fight.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Aiding the Blind?

If I ask for help does it mean I am weak and needy?

This question faces the blind and probably most people every day.

Being blind I admit does have its problems. I can't read straight from a book or paper, I can't drive, walking is difficult unless I know exactly where I am.

But in many situations I can cope.

When I can't though asking people around me to help can seem a drain on their time.  It makes me feel needy too.  For instance yesterday my medical insurance company nurse called me on the telephone. Nothing special they call me every few weeks just to maintain their service.

Going over some of the medications I use she wanted to know the spelling of one of them. Now she does know I am blind. I take a stab at what I think the spelling may be. No it wasn't in their system. So what does she say?

"Can't you get your wife to tell me your medications?"

"No, my wife is in work."

:Then next time have her wrote out your medications so you can see them."

At this point I feel one inch tall and pathetic.

I understand nurses have to deal with patients, and put on an act of empathy. But the total lack of understanding of my frustration at not being able to do something was stunning.

I already have to ask my wife or her family to do a lot of travelling for me. Living in the country I often get the one bus out of town to go to the doctors, but then as the bus doesn't stop less than five miles from the doctors offices, someone, usually my father-in-law and mother-in-law meet me take me to all my appointments and back to the bus stop in time for the one bus back to nome.

That makes me feel awful in itself. Now people demand I ask more of others in order for them to gain some information. That is a seemingly trivial matter, but it is a laege mountain when you already feel a burden for those around you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Little Light Eighties Music

I was playing around today.

For a week now I have had bronchitis and was in the mood for some fun.  I looked around on YouTube and found some old 1980's favorite songs.

I posted five of those songs on this hub:

Spandau Ballet; Bananarama; Rick Astley et al: My Favorite Five Hit Songs of the Eighties

If you'd like to hear some of the music I enjoyed in the eighties, hop over to that Hub.

There are some really good dance songs, a nice slow ballad, lots of love and teen angst.

Plus possibly one of the worst Pop Promo Videos ever made.  Sorry Spandau Ballet, but "Muscle Bound" was not a good video.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Glaucoma: One of the More Easily Prevented Causes of Blindness

Glaucoma is one of the more easily preventable causes of blindness.

Simply a raised internal eye pressure Glaucoma in its early phase has no visible manifestation. You may after a while think that you need new glasses or notice lack of peripheral vision.  By this time damage is becoming severe and treatment is necessary. Treatment can include use of drops or an implant of a tube under the eyelid to allow the release of internal eye pressure by allowing the fluid inside the eye to exit over the surface of the eye. This tube is not noticable after a few hours, I have had to receive this treatment myself. Now and again my eye will seem to water excessively, that is liquid from inside the eye, leaking to the outside.

In this interesting article about Glaucoma testing in Australia, More Australians fear Blindness than Spiders, but do nothing.. The fear of blindness is very real.  After all, more people go blind every year than are seriously injured by spiders, or any of the half dozen other phobias mentioned in the article.

I have had Glaucoma, mine was induced by the use of steroids for my Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO) I was made aware of the risk, for glaucoma by my retinologist at the start of treatment. Unfortunately the glaucoma was much worse than we estimated, causing major damage to the optic nerve.

That aside, Glaucoma for the general population is easily tested for, a pressure check takes all of thirty seconds, and measuring of the optic disc a matter of minutes too.

If undertaken as part of a semi-annual check means little effort is required by you to help prevent the most easily treatable problem and prevent long term damage. Or Blindness.

My glaucoma problem is not typical, it was a calculated risk taken by me and my retinologist, in the light of severe consequences doing nothing.

But most Glaucoma damage is very preventable.

Ask your eye doctor to add the neccessary checks into your normal eye checks. There is no invasive procedure, no pain and in the long term it can save your sight.

Glaucoma, take the Test advice

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Would there be a Book HERE?

It seems that I am building the idea for a Kindle e-book in my mind.

Well it is 3:30am and my mind is fully awake and has been for over an hour now. Either that or it is a high from the cold medicine I took yesterday afternoon.


Would anyone be interested in a book about the last ten years of my life. It would start around 9/11 2001. That was a big day for me in many ways. It was a day when I think the first blood clot was forming which would take my vision in my right eye within weeks. It was also more famous for the events in New York City, Virginia and Pennsylvania. It was also around that time that the idea to travel the United States by train began to form. A decision that would dramatically change my life. Forever.

This is not a rhetorical question. Would YOU be interested in the story?  Would you want to know a story of How I went blind? How I found my way through the red tape of the US Immigration System to become first a permanent resident then a citizen?How I fought blindness to gain a degree? How I met a wonderful group of people, and how one was so special that I had to fall in love with her and marry her? She has stood by me through many of the last ten years, sometimes praising me on to higher things, sometimes delivering the ultimatums that I need to pull me from the pity parties.

So be honest is there a book in here somewhere?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Is Bigger Better When it Comes to Aiding the Blind?

Am I the only person who gets a little irritated when sighted people say having bigger buttons or magnifying a television screen will help me see things and use them?

I just read an article online where someone, obviously sighted expounded the virtues of larger buttons on a phone, magnifying instruments to aid television and computer screen vision and variable text size on a Kindle reader, all as means to aid the blind or visually impaired.

Fine, I love my own kindle devices, I actually own two of them. Do I use text enlargement on either? No! I use the text to speech features to read a book to me.

I don't watch TV I can see a dim grey blurr of light where the Television is, but no amount of enlargement will help me see a picture there.

My computer too, I use Non Visual Desktop Application (NVDA) screen reader to help me navigate on my computer. I also use Dragon Naturally Speaking to navigate and write posts or papers to my class. The screen is of little use to me anyway.

My phone has speech recognition, I tell it to call a person and it does, well sometimes it does. Read my blog My Stupid Smart Phone!   for my day to day relationship with a really dumb piece of technology.

Trying Ideas for a New Business

I always like looking for new things to do.
I am as you know working on my MA degree in History, I also work part-time for a local governement agency.
The  part-time job however is under constant threat. Not because of any problems with work in general, but here in California with the current economic climate any job in local or state control is very precarious. To have a as requiewd part-time post is not really the road to job security, if anyone has that anymore.
One of my ideas is to look into publishing e-books for the Amazon kindle. I have bought a few books on the subject and to be honest, most are utter rubbish.
I did however find this book, it is FREE for Amazon Prime Users to borrow and less than $5 to buy. It turned out to be pretty good. Which is why I am recommending it to you, if you are thinking of setting up your own publishing business, quickly and easily.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Class Grades Posted Today!

Today was the day when my class professor posted our final paper grades and also the total grade for the class overall.

I was delighted that I received an A+ for my final paper. Receiving almost 97% for the grade. Overall in the class I received a A-, most of that was because the draft of my paper received a B-, I had concentrated on figuring out a timeline for my paper topic, "The Importance of US Highway 66 in the development of the modern USA"  That B was enough to take my overall class grade down to 94.75%.

I am very pleased with that situation however, I did not expect a higher grade on the draft paper. That is afterall where one can make the mistakes. The idea being you improve on that grade in the final effort and I did just that.

This now gives me an overall "A" for the MA program so far.

This is a very happy and positive finish to my day. 8-)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thank You

Thank You all for reading my Blog.

This Blog has been live now for nine months.

When I wrote my first blog post here, I hoped that this blog might become a resource for those of you who are blind or for sighted people who wanted to understand a little about blindness.

That first post was made on June 1, 2011. Now as we passed nine months you, the viewers of this blog allowed me to reach another milestone.  4,000 views in the previous nine months make this the most viewed of all my online blogs. Viewing figures are rising daily, in the past few weeks you have increased the average viewing figure from less than 10 per day to over 20 per day. I hope that this increase in viewers means that I am doing something right?

If you have ideas for more articles on particular matters, hints and tips or just feedback in general, feel free to comment.

I hope that you will all continue to support this blog.

Let's see where we can take this. Shall we?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Day in Court

A little over a month ago I received a summons to attend the local State Court for Jury service.

Since I had to be at the court by 8:30am I knew it would be awkward. I live 70 miles from the court and obviously can't drive.

My solution when the notice to actually attend was to take the train to the Amtrak Station nearest the court. Our local Amtrak is only forty miles away, and the train left at 6:10am. So my wife was enrolled to drive me to the station. For us both it was a 4am start.

I paid my fare only $4.75 at that time in the morning. The train ran on time. Though there was one woman who complained all the way that she could not smoke and that some Blind man had sat in HER seat. Being an empty seat when I got on, I sat in it. It was marked for disabled users, and this woman was no where in the compartment when I boarded.

I got off the train at the other end, by this time the woman was silent. This was because she obviously now had a cigarette in her mouth. I grew up with a mother who smoked. Cigarette smoke never bothered me then, today it makes me nauseous at the first breath.

I made my way to the courthouse. Arriving at about 7am. The doors to the Jury Assembly room opened at 7:45am. It was a relief to get into the warm room after sitting outside in temeperatures just above 30 degrees.

During the next hour the room filled with about 150 people. Names were called and people moved off to various courtrooms.

My name was called early. We had to answer a questionairre before the selection. This was a major problem for me, but one of the court supervisors helped me. Then after filling in the questionairre those jurors were taken to an adjacent building. I had special help from the court supervisor who had helped me to fill in the form. We had to cross a couple of streets and then make our way through security. That part particularly worried me, my cane being hollow and would it be designated a potential weapon?  Luckily it wasn't.

After entering, believe it or not we just sat for about three hours. Talking about stuff like the weather. Then just about lunchtime we were called. Told that the case had been settled out of court and dismissed, deemed to have served for the purpose of being recused for twelve months.

If you can get to a courthouse. Try serving on a jury. Being Blind does not exempt you from serving your community and country, unless you want to refuse that is.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is This Prejudice I Hear?

At the end of last month I received a notice that from 27th February 2012, I would be on a stand-by list for jury service.

I told my employer and all was fine.

I also told a colleague. Well it was like a torrent of "You can't ..." hit me.

"Your blind and can't see the evidence." "Your blind and won't be able to tell when someone is lying." "You would give cause for a mis-trial claim." "Blind people can't sit on juries, passing judgement on sighted people!"

It was all nonsence of course. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, we blind cannot be refused on the sole grounds of blindness.

But I was amazed at my colleague for this behavior. If I had said an African-American couldn't sit on a jury, or a woman. Would that be ok? No their only opinion was a blind person is incapable.

With all the other stuff going on. I was not looking forward to being a juror anyway. I am still on stand-by.

But I can say I was very disappointed in my colleague. I had thought them more understanding than it appears they are.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The World Gone Black.

A few days ago I talked about my vision suddenly failing completely in my left eye.

Yesterday, Monday February 20,2012, I went to see my retinologist for my monthly check-up.

As I had mentioned here, the first eye test using the eye chart showed problems. The major problem I could see nothing. One of the assistants who did all the preliminary checks shone a light into my left eye, I could see a faint glow, somewhere beside my nose. Otherwise nothing.

On getting these results and checking my OCT scan, which showed no swelling of the retina. That for me was not good news, swelling has in the past caused similar symptoms, but not the darkness.

My retinologist then sent me for a circulatory photo session. A fluorescent die is injected into your arm and seconds later a series of photographs is taken of the blood vessels over the back of the eye.

This series of pictures showed an area of the retina has died due to a lack of blood supply. 

The cause is not known, I don't know if there was a blockage because of a clot. I take warfarin daily, at about 10 to 15 mg per day. My blood was not as thinned as my hemotologist would have liked a few days ago so it is possible this was the cause.

Anyway the dead area could be responsible for the loss of vision.

My Retinologist is now thinking of laser surgery to seal off the dead area. She says this may prevent future swelling from the original CRVO and mean that I need less treatments with Avastin and Lucentis.

It also could mean that I have to take more and more laser treatments. That was what caused me to lose the sight in my right eye.  The eye surgeon there, suggested ring fencing the damaged area, but with each series of laser treatments to block off blood vessels, the damaged area only grew. Until after some 20,000 laser shots vision was lost in that eye almost completely.

So now a five week dilema, do nothing and leave well alone, do something and possibly not have to have monthly injections or go with treatment and risk a few painful laser surgeries but not regain any real vision.

It is tough but I have a month to think about it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Going to the Retinologist Today

Today is my appointment at the retinologist.

My vision is about as bad as the worst days of my central retinal vein oclusion (CRVO) about four years ago now.

As I type I cannot see the keyboard, and as it is 5.30am I don't want to speak into my Dragon Naturally Speaking software.

It is at times like this, often early in the morning, after another sleepless night that I say this blindness lark really stinks. Wow a pity party is really going on in my head today.

There is not really a reason for that. I am not doing too badly after all. I have a job, I am doing pretty well with my Master's classes, twenty five percent of the way and passing classes. Even yesterday I completed and submitted the draft to my class final paper. That class has just twelve days to run now.

But again I meet the pity party crowd in my head. Spoil everyone's day, while others go to the mountains or the beach on this President's Day holiday, people have to give up their day to take me to the doctor. And to cap that they are willing to point that very thing out to me. I have to ask others to check my paper for me, just check spellings and not find  mistakes like one found the other week. Talking of "modern weapons" in nineteenth century China, Dragon made the phrase into "mutton weapons", I know the Chinese are tough but going into battle carrying a lamb chop! :)

But as you can perhaps tell that kind of frustration can get waring. You probably face similar frustrations daily.

All this is just whining and does no real good. It is just a mark of frustration and today I am like a kid screaming in the supermarket aisle because mummy will not buy me the toy car that I want and WANT NOW!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

All is Black.

I went to bed the other night. Closed my eyes and slept.
When I woke at just after 6am yesterday. I opened my eyes. I noticed that it was dark in the room. I was laying on my right side and my right eye was buried in the pillow. But what is unusual about it being dark at 6am on a February morning?

As many of you who are regular readers may recall. I often talk of the bright light I always see.

That bright light has gone from my left side vision. Now I close my right eye and the world is dark. Open my right eye and the world gets brighter with no definition.

So I have an appointment with my retinologist on Monday.  I am not going to push for that appointment to be brought forward. I would have done in the past, but given how my left eye vision has been detteriorating I think that this is just the final part of the going blind process in that eye.

Am I sorry, in some ways no. It was just getting problematic dealing with fluctuations. Some days good, some days really bad. If this situation is to be permanent I can adjust more easily to that permanent status.

I will keep you posted as to what happens.

What My Eye Doctor Found.

Monday, February 13, 2012

More Intel Reader Tips

Speed Up Processing.

In recent tests I have found it much faster to scan and process one page at a time.

Place your document to be read on the Capture Station and cover one page with a blank piece of paper. Scan and capture each page singly and it makes processing about 30% faster.

Cover Footnotes on Scanned Documents.

When scanning a document with footnotes. Cover the footnotes with a blank sheet of paper.

Covering footnotes makes playback of the text much easier. The scanner does not read italic text very well and this can spoil ones reading speed and pleasure. Especially if the page has a lot of footnotes. The easiest thing to do is cover them up and not scan them at all.

Zoom in to Text

When using the Capture Station zoom the camera in as closely as you can to the text.

Doing this makes it easier for the reader to interpret the text.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cancer? No.I don't Get Paid to Say "I told you so!"

This last week saw me going to the hospital for a CT scan.

You can be sure that as the radiographer was preping me for the process I told him several times about my old "ValleyFever" scars.

For the sake of clarity, Valley Fever is a fungal infection found in the Southwest United States and Northern Mexico. One of the problems with Vally Fever is that it is a disease which after infecting your lungs it leaves scars which appear on X-Rays for years to follow. These scars to a Radiographer who doesn't know your history can appear cancerous on an x-ray plate.  I originally became sick with Valley Fever in September 2006, that episode took me until December of that year to recover. Believe me, you wouldn't wish Valley Fever on your worst enemy.

Anyway, last Christmas I had pneumonia which meant a chest x-ray. And a subsequent panic for my doctor crying cancer at a recent appointment.

Friday I went back for the results of the CT scan. Low and behold my doctor was in jolly mood.

"The scan is clear, you have Valley Fever scarring on your lungs."

Excuse me! You mean to say that now I am paying you to tell me what I told you?

All the fuss and problems he caused, my having to get time to go to the hospital, organizing someone to drive me, giving up their time and I had been right all along.

But His attitude is, that it is good news, he was not wrong in calling it cancer, he needed to get an updated scan of my chest anyway to see the status of the Valley Fever scars. So if he had told me that in the first place I would not be happy?

Of course I would be a lot happier than I am with a doctor who knows my history, going off on a wild cancer chase. Now if I do really get sick, do I believe him or do I just pay myself a big fat check and say I am as great a diagnostician as my doctor.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What to do? Cancer?

In December I went to see my primary care doctor over a cough. He sent me off to the hospital that day for a chest x-ray. The result came back as pneumonia and so he gave me anti-biotics and told me to rest a few days and go back over the Christmas holidays for another chest x-ray.

Well the cough eased a little and I went back for a second chest x-ray which showed some scars, possibly from valley fever that I had in the Fall of 2006. Valley Fever is a nasty fungal infection of the lungs, and the Central Valley of California is a hoy spot for the little spores that you breathe in.

Well the cough came back the week after Christmas and back for more anti-biotics. Again there was some improvement until the other night when I felt the familiar burning pain under my ribs on the right side again.

Today, I went back to my doctor.

Today though he was a little more glum as he spoke to me.

The radiologist who examined the chest x-rays was concerned about a "mass" on the right lung.

""So, it's probably valley fever" scars?" Was my question.

"The radiologist wants to check again. This time with a CT scan. It may be a cancer."

Of course this is with no tests, no real information and not much evidence.

If I were on trial I would doubt this evidence would lead to a conviction. But it leaves yours truly here, wondering for the next week or so, while the doctor gets insurance clearance for the test. What the hell is going on? I am sure if it was that serious they would have called to let me know. Wouldn't they?

Finding Books on Blindness for the Amazon Kindle

It came to me to try a little experiment.

I decided to try and see how many books were readily available for the blind, covering living with low vision or blindness in general and available on Kindle readers with text to speech enabled.

Do you know how many I found in the first two pages of Amazon's website?


Ok Pun intended here. How can publishers be so short-sighted?

The Kindle for me is my primary book reader, now there are more books available with the text to speech facility enabled.

I have two Kindle's an older DX and a new Kindle touch. Both work well and it means now I am less dependent on publishers creating a CD version of the book, more expensive and usually available a year or two after initial publication, or having to wait for my local library for the blind to send me a copy of a book through the mail.

We blind and visually impaired have a right to get information. I don't need to buy a print copy of a book, give it to my spouse to read for me, or a friend either. Then have them tell me what it said.

OK I do have an Intel Reader which I know could read the book for me. But what about you? Do you have a reader? Do you feel that publishers should do more to make their product available to us?

After all do they publish the books so sighted people can vicariously experience blindness?  Surely the authors wanted to share information and want to see their books available to the widest audience possible. We are willing to buy the book so why won't they create something we can read, or listen to?

If you feel the same way as I do.

Go to and select books which are not available on Kindle. Click the link to ask the publisher to publish the book to Kindle and lets see if we can't all really benefit from shared knowledge.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where Did January Go?

It seems only a few hours ago since I was wishing everyone a happy new year. Now here we are and it's the 31st January.

The month has been busy. I have got another class almost under my belt. My Modern China class ends on Saturday next. Then a one day break to see the Superbowl game and back to school Monday for Modern American History.

January also saw the news that two studies and medical trials for blindness treatments are going well. One with human fetal stem cells at UCLA came out first. That was encouraging that human trials were positive.

At Pennsylvania University a gene therapy treatment for Retinitis Pigmentosa is also looking positive. Treatment there is still at the animal test stage. Scientists are using a virus injected into the eye to transport a modified gene to the retina to implant the gene into retinal cells curing the disease.  Again encouraging results there.

On other fronts we have got past the first of the Primaries in the Presidential race. Still a close call there for the Republicans. It will be an interesting few months till the primaries are over and we get to the final race to November.

So that seems to be where January went for me. I hope it was as normal for you.

Now to decide who I should cheer on Sunday in the Superbowl. Patriots or Giants? Manning is good, and he gets to go to his brothers home field. My mother in law is from Connecticut so torn there for the Patriots.

Decisions, decisionns, decisions?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Breakfast at Perko's

One of the best things about life in the United States is breakfast.

Normally I eat breakfast at home before dashing out to work. That is not fun.

I had swapped around my week this past week, gave up working Wednesday for a plumber and surrendered to work today, Saturday, instead. As a treat for mmyself I decided o make a trip to the local diner, Perko's for breakfast too.

I walked the couple of miles to the diner in the dark, it took me 45 minutes to tap and shuffle my way across town. I left home a little after 6am and arrived a little before 7am. I was surprised to find the parking lot full, large pick-ups everywhere.

It has been a few years since my visit to Perko's at such an early hour and I had forgotten that farmers breakfast early. The place was full of wide brimmed Stetson's and John Deere baseball caps. Talk at the tables was of rain or lack ofrain and the price of livestock and such worries always sent to try the pockets of the farmer wherever they live.

I just savored the pleasure of this ruitual as I ate my steak, country potatoes and scrambled eggs.

As the sun began to rise over the distant Sierra Nevada. I suddenly felt quite appreciative of what I have. A full stomach, a home and men and women who care about the rain sun and price of livestock.

It is nice to live in this country. Nice to share breakfast at Perko's.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Wonder?

There has been quite a bit of comment in the press and on the news this week about the success of the first human embryonic stem cell treatments for Macular Degeneration.

I have come to wonder does such a thing then mean that their may be a treatment for my kind of blindness?

I have blindness caused by a Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO). This is a blood clot which caused a loss of blood flow through the eye, damaging the retinal cells, especially in the macular.

The treatment is, for me, as I have an underlying auto-immune disease. Antiphospholipd syndrome (Hughes syndrome or APS). a lifetime on blood thinners under constant monitoring and monthly intravitreal injections of Avastin or Lucentis.

So while I could not give up the blood thinning medication, maybe the stem cell treatment might be possible.

That would save me a lot of problems, no monthly injections into the eye, not painful but not pleasant either. Not having to go to the eye doctor every month gives me twelve more working daysper year. Making me more money as I don't get paid leave, being part-time, maybe I could even get a full time job with one working eye, not many places like to start a blind person, no matter how qualified.For me then, maybe for you too, the new treatment may be akin to winning the lottery. A dream of, "If I got that injection I would ..."

Oh well. We can watch and wonder.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Intel Reader Video

I thought you might like to see this.

It is a video that describes the use of the Intel Reader.

Intel Reader: Tips #2

Here are some new tips that I have found using my Intel Reader.

1.  Listening to Text:

Use a pair of earphones or headphones when listening to your Intel Reader.

The internal speaker is ok, but can sound very mechanical. Listening to your reader through ear or headphones makes the voice sound more human and much clearer.

I guess it is psychological in that we are used to listening to phone calls and such and we can interpret the sound much easier.

2. You can change the text and page background colors from the settings screen. The default is white on black but you can change it to black text on yellow background or red or blue and white text. So try the various color schemes and find what suits you best.

For lots of reading I use Black letters on Yellow.

If you have a tip share them here.

Stem Cell Technology Trials: Encouraging

Good news for sufferers of Macula Degeneration.

Doctor Schwartz, of UCLA has announced that the first trials of stem cell treatments have proved to be encouraging. While one patient showed visual improvement with no visible regrowth of retina light receptors and so a placebo effect (patient felt it would work so acted accordingly), could not be ruled out. another patient showed growth of new retinal cells.

This is a link to the Washington Post video report Click HERE.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Vacation Suggestions Anyone?

I am thinking ahead for possible vacation destinations this summer. Does anyone have a suggestion?

I just want suggestions for visually impaired friendly vacations. Not really interested in night-life, partying and such.

Ease of getting to a place would be a big factor, so I'd guess it would need lots of public transport. A good airport would be good. Doesn't really matter too much to me if I need to make transfers, if I fly from my local airport Fresno Yosemite International (FAT) I always have to change planes, they either fly through San Francisco, Los Angeles or most often Las Vegas.

Those three cities have been on my vacation list alot so are not really what I am looking for.

I also travel a lot by bus, Greyhound or Amtrak, often to Reno, NV.

Amtrak is a favorite mode of travel for me.

So if you have any suggestions for great vacation destinations for a single traveller who is visually impaired let me know.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Recent Eye Doctor Visit

Last Monday, January 16. I went to see my eye doctor, technically she is a retinologist. But that is by the by.
I went through all the usual checks, eye chart, pressures, OCT scan, no dilation which is always good.

The eye chart part was tough though. I have been noticing my vision is getting worse. Not blurred anymore, which is good. But for you older readers, do you remember the days when television sets had contrast and brightness knobs on the front? Did you ever turn both these knobs to full. The picture got so bright and more undefined.

Well that is about where my vision is today. Bright, I close my eyes at night and I still think I can see light. Maybe that is something to do with the insomnia? Anyway, I pointed out the phenomena, she just said, "There is no physical reason for that."

So is she saying it is in my imagination?

I know in the past that I have been able to detect changes well before the machines and doctors tests could find something. My doctor is good, but somehow I think we are missing something happening here. Don't know what it is, but it is happening.

On Wednesday, my wife even got the message that something is going on. She came to my work unexpectedly. We were organizing a book club and she wanted to know whether to pick up some of the snacks. She was three feet away from me and I walked past her. I didn't even know she, or anyone for that matter, was there. Of course she was offended because I ignored her. That was despite my protests that it was not a deliberate snub. Life is too short to start a fight that way, anyway.

I'll need to keep an eye on the matter. Pun intended. :)